The soap surrounding PsyStar, the company that offers a Mac clone for sale, just keeps on running. After the initial launch, the company was plagued by doubt and mystery surrounding its actual existence, but soon after videos started popping up of the OpenComputer out in the wild, beyond the company itself. Thanks to CNet, the company may now have fully redeemed itself.Yesterday, CNet reported it had received their review unit of the OpenComputer from PsyStar. They published a video of the unboxing process, and photos of the device too. Today, they also published the review of the device, making them the first ‘big’ website to review the OpenComputer.
It’s obvious from the moment they open the box that it is nothing like the fabled ‘Apple experience’. In fact, it all looks like your average low-end Windows PC; from the foam flakes to the Styrofoam blocks supporting the actual computer, this is what you would get buying a computer at your local computer store. The machine obviously boots into a normal BIOS, only to pass on the booting process to Mac OS X.
The benchmarks performed by CNet show that the OpenComputer they had for review beat the Mac Mini by a large margin on all fronts they benchmarked. This only makes sense, as the OpenComputer they received, priced at USD 740 (including Mac OS X) had far better specifications than the USD 799 Mac Mini they pitted it against. The USD 599 Mac Mini model would’ve faired even less well. Of note is that the benchmark results used for the Mac Mini were taken while running Tiger. This is a problematic point, and needs mentioning.
CNet continued by testing the OpenComputer by adding peripherals, buying music in the iTunes Music Store, connecting an iPod Classic and downloading songs to it, launching Front Row, and editing some video using Final Cut Pro. All those things worked fine on the OpenComputer.
It’s not without problems, of course. Seeing Apple’s past behaviour regarding the iPhone, it only made sense for PsyStar to disable the automatic update feature. CNet ran the update tool manually, and the updates it found installed without a hitch, and the machine rebooted successfully. Obviously, this may change in the future. To remedy this issue, PsyStar has stated that it will actually actively screen each patch Apple puts out, testing their effects before sending it on to you, the OpenComputer owner. This system is currently not operational yet.
CNet lists the other issues:
there’s no wireless networking included. You also lose out on Bluetooth, a built-in IR receiver, or the tiny Apple Remote. There’s also no iLife ’08 application suite, which means the GarageBand audio tool, iPhoto, iMovie, iDVD, and iWeb are all absent from the Open Computer. The system also wouldn’t let us burn a DVD. In other words, the Open Computer is not as polished as an official Mac. That could be fine if all you want is raw horsepower for a good price. But if you expect PsyStar to deliver the same Apple experience, prepare to be disappointed.
All in all, it would seem that PsyStar is legit, after all. They are sending out review machines, so slowly but surely, you might consider ordering one.
This basically means the ball is now in Apple’s court. Assuming they won’t find anything else to sue PsyStar on, if they want to stop the company, they will have to go to court waving their EULA at the judge. And while the Dutch courts might side with Apple, this might not be the case in the US.
So, for about $50.00 USD less, you get a computer that is faster than a Mac Mini, yet is less useful because it doesn’t have certain hardware and software features found on the Mac.
While I am no fan of Apple, I believe there is more to the end-user experience than just raw computing speed. I also recognize that what Apple sells is an integrated computing solution, not just an operating system installed on a computer.